Day 9: I am 6,988 words behind schedule.

In my defense, I was out of town for three days. And no one likes dealing with a laptop through airport security. And writing in a notebook is so much slower than typing. And I’ve gotten almost every achievement in Plants Versus Zombies! Aren’t you proud? Oh, come on. That kind of impresses you.

Alright, then. Here’s the deal: I left in the middle of Friday, notebook in tow. I made sure I had a pen I could tolerate, and spent half the flight scribbling away in what has become horrible handwriting (I’m talking illegible–What does that say? She held a gerbil to her ear . . . what?). I moved my main character into a new scene and gave her a sidekick to adventure with. There was some progress. But for the rest of the weekend the notebook stayed shut, and on the flight back I didn’t write, I slept. But whatever my progress, the fact is that it is now the 9th day, and I’m still writing. I haven’t mentally given up on this thing and I hope, if you’re writing, that you haven’t either.

Compared to last year’s slave-driving approach, this year I’ve been less intense in my writing schedule. Last year I committed fully to being a hermit. I went to work in the morning and in the afternoon I came home, changed into sweats, and sat down to write. I didn’t get up until I met the word count. I didn’t go grocery shopping if I was behind. In short, I was the creepy, greasy neighbor you hope you never run into. This year, though, I’m taking it a little easier and have started up some habits to keep me on track. The more I read of other writers and the more I write, the more I realize that writers are like baseball players–notorious for those weird superstitions that are supposed to bring down the Good Luck Chihuahuas and the Rainbows of Incredibly Awesome Feats.

My first best habit this time around is not original at all, and no one is a stranger to it: unplugging from the internet. I do this for real. I don’t have a wireless router, so I can just snap the cord out from my laptop, and it’s like magic. Instant focus. The second habit is a sort of Pavlovian thing that is sure to mess me up for holidays to come. I bought an enormous pumpkin caramel–butterscotch toffee–maple walnut candle (I’m not even kidding) and held off on firing it up until Nov. 1. And now, I only light it when it’s time to write, and as soon as I’m done, I blow it out. My hope is that this plays out with a subconscious link between pumpkin spice things and writing. “Pumpkin pie? No thanks, but I’ll have that pad of paper over there! Yeah, thanks!” Ding! It’s probably more like having a crusty, lucky rabbit’s foot, but I’m still hoping to sear writing as a daily event in my brain.

I’ve definitely got a lot of catch-up work ahead of me this week. I’m also going to be out of town next weekend, so if you’ve got any lucky habits (or foods–anyone have suggestions for a lucky snack? Lucky pizza bites?), I can use all the help I can get. Suggest away! My pumpkin spice candle and I will be here.